In the 1830s, James C. Pennington, a fugitive slave, was the first Black student at Yale Divinity School. Due to the racial restrictions of that time, he was not allowed into classrooms and had to listen to lectures from the hallway. Pennington completed all his course work but was not granted a degree. He did become pastor of the Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven. It was another 40 years before Solomon Jones became the first Black student to earn a degree at Yale Divinity School.
The stories of these two pioneers are included in a new research project chronicling the history of African Americans at Yale Divinity School. The project, entitled “Been in the Storm So Long,” has a goal of not only documenting the history of Black students at the school but also exploring how the Black presence at Yale impacted the wider community and the growth of Black theological education.
The effort is under the director of Moses N. Moore Jr., a graduate of Yale Divinity School who is now an associate professor of religious studies at Arizona State University, and Yolanda Smith, a lecturer in Christian education at Yale Divinity School.
More information on the project is available here.